Pillar planter design and building steps
Photo: Mathew Benson
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Pillar Planter

Building a pillar planter using precast concrete retaining-wall blocks, which get glued together, is a simple project for almost any homeowner. To show how it can be done, we designed a 32-inch square one with tumbled blocks from Versa-Lok. It's just 4 feet high, so no footing or additional reinforcement is necessary, and blocks can be cut as needed with an inexpensive brick hammer. To build it:

1. Excavate a foot of soil, then add 6 inches of tamped crushed stone; top with 1/2 inch of sand.
2. Lay your first course, alternating 16- and 8-inch-long blocks to create the pattern shown here; level it.
3. Apply concrete adhesive along the tops of the blocks, then start the second course, offsetting joints with large and small blocks as needed. Top with adhesive -- and so on, for a total of eight courses.
4. On the ninth row, knock 3 inches off the inside of each 12-inch-deep block to make room for a 3 1/2-gallon plastic bucket to sit on the rim of the void in the column's center.
5. Lay and glue two courses of thinner, 14-inch-long cap stones, cutting 3 inches off the depth of the last course; line up the inside edges of all three top rows for a stepped cap. Drill drainage holes in the bucket; drop it in. Fill with soil and flowers.
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